Valkyrie III: Song of Darkness, The Novel Edition

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Chapter Sixteen

Vanessa laughed outrageously as she thought about what Morgan had said, tossing her long, flame colored locks behind her shoulder. In trying to change the outcome and save the male from getting toasted, Morgan had instead changed the spell itself. Van couldn’t have planned it out better herself, for instead of turning a fool who had out-right grabbed at her ass, into a burning pyre to rival the ancient sacrifices, Morgan had almost drowned him.
Served him right, too. Sure, she had been angry at first, but only because Vanessa was the youngest in the Darkstaff blood-line and a need to enforce boundaries was engrained in their genetic make-up since the dawn of time. Fire mages, the lot of them, and next to the Valkyries, their family housed some of the most prominent Bearers of Magic, in all of Misthaven; not that these drunken fools cared. Vanessa grumbled as she swayed with her tray of drinks, only to set them down on the bar with a thud and Mauve turned around with a start.
“If I can’t singe them a little, what about a case of spontaneous, internal combustion?” Vanessa inquired. “That’s what they call it when people explode for no reason!” She added, as if Mauve needed an explanation.
The female just shook her head.
“Sometimes they do explode!” Vanessa sighed and picked up a drink herself.
Maeve’s green eyes narrowed as the red-headed step-child her daughter had befriended, mumbled and plotted away over the rim of her glass. Big, beautiful lashes and eyes that screamed, I just want to hug you…
Oh, Vanessa acted so innocent and the magic in her blood made her exceptionally hard to read, but Mauve knew better. She could sense things like these, a gift given to all mothers.
“Get along with you now. Go on, there will be no explosions here.” She shook her head, ushering Vanessa back from behind the bar.
“At least not yet.” Vanessa corrected her and disappeared back into the crowd.

***

Robert Morant stood with Gil, helping Jack get the lad ready. Rather, they were supposed to be helping Gil get dressed, but both were standing off to the side, one against a wall and the other leaning on the back of the lounger. Moral support was what they’d called it. Backing up their fellow male on what was going to be the second biggest day of his life. A male had needs, and right now those needs included his best buddies, a few bottles of fire-water and one hell of a pep-talk.
So early, Gil could hardly contain his yawn, using his hand to hide it instead. He looked at his best friend and reminisced over the length of their friendship and what it meant to have him there. Robert was a good male, even if he towered over him like a bodyguard. At six foot, seven inches tall, the dark-skinned male was indeed intimidating.
Too bad, at a time like this, he was silent as a mute as moved closer and adjusted Gil’s cloak like a valet picking off non-existent lint. So much for being big and scary. Still, he must have felt the tension in the room, so tight, it threatened to snap all three of them like twigs.
“Nervous?” Morant growled softly causing Gil to turn, offering him a cocked brow and a roll of his eyes.
“I’m not going to lie, there are times I’d rather invade North Korea.” Gil replied, causing Rob to look at him dubiously.
“Are you still going on about that?” The big male inquired with a shake of his head.
“North Korea?” Jack repeated, coming away from the wall. “What foolish idea you got in that brain of yours now, Boy-o?”
Gil chucked and shook his head before he spoke again. “I’ve got it all figured out. You, me, Mist and Sif, and Senna and Kara. It’ll be the perfect honeymoon.”
“A honeymoon? Jack chuckled to himself but Gil and Robert were already knee-deep in their plans. “Well then, you’re not leaving me behind, Boy-o.”
“There you go. A star burst.” One of them piped up and Jack had to shake his head.
“A what?” He inquired, but neither replied.
A few moments later and Robert shook his head, thinking hard before he spoke. “You’re crazy! You can’t invade North Korea…”
“You most certainly cannot. It’s your bloody wedding day.” Jack grumbled.
“Not only that, he’s only got the six of us listed, seven, if we count you in, Jack.” Robert was still shaking his head as he reached for his drink.
“No, listen. I’ve got it all figured out. There are dense forests in that part of the country, thick and dark, even the people are afraid to enter. You could lose a battalion in there and no one would find them.” Gil’s eyes lit up, but the look on Jack and Robert’s faces told him it was a no.
Not today. Not on his wedding day, but soon, he hoped. Bloody well soon. He had a bone to pick with a certain asshole there.

***

Ashlyn followed closely behind one of Khia’s Petals, careful not to bump into anyone on her way to the chamber. The place was full of people and with the celebrations lined up to start after dark in the great hall above, she needed to be sure that things were going according to plan here as well.
It had been years since she’d walked these halls, dragging her hand across the gilded papering that peeled away at the seams. She thought never to return to this part of Khia’s keep, but the sudden stirring in her gut had called her here. It was time. Malice was slowly awakening and she needed to do this.
Coming upon the door, the elder Valkyrie knocked discretely, as she conjured a tray of food. If rumors held true, then Malice had actually saved the young woman beyond the door and that was information that Ashlyn could use. She was breaking free, little by little, from Pathen’s grip. That brought a smile to her lips and an ease to her mind as she awaited the reply from within. It was all adding up.
The incident with the child was the first. She’d followed orders and killed the father, but the child had been spared. And the young, dark-haired female, Marena, Malice had all but gone to war over her. Both, were sure signs that the Hosts were not always in control as they had once suspected. A part of the Hosted remained to shine through.
These were things to ponder, and again she knocked upon the door. “Khia, it’s Ashlyn. I have brought food and drink, may I enter?”

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